It’s really excruciating to go to bed now. I know that my sweet slumber will refresh me, but upon awakening each day there seems to be a new and worse tragedy happening than had occurred on the day before. Friday there was a terrible snowstorm/rainstorm that affected over a million New Englanders. They soon were suffering in the cold and the dark with no power as hurricane force winds lashed their homes.
There was also a 7.0 earthquake in Japan near the Ryuku Islands. A tsunami warning was issued. As with any earthquake, there is always fear and panic, especially because of aftershocks. The tsunami warning also added to the fear and uncertainty because beaches were evacuated.
I went to bed and awoke to the news that an 8.8 earthquake had occurred in Chile and that tsunami warning again had been issued. All of the Pacific and all of Asia braced for impact. That’s an entire continent. There are reports of 71/2 foot tall tsunami waves hitting now. Tsunami alerts are out for the whole of the Pacific basin, which means about a quarter of the earth’s population is under risk. Nations cry in anguish at the roaring and the tossing of the seas.(Luke 21:25)
New tragedies are happening every day. Moreover, their scale is increasing. The frequency of record-breaking snowstorms hammering the eastern US has risen to once-in-a-while to one-a-week. Each one was bigger than the last. Each has a more colorful title than the last: such as “Snowmageddon”, and “Snowicane”… The earthquakes in Japan and Chile were massive but also, the aftershocks of the Chile quake were all each as big as massive quakes in themselves. One measured 6.9. And of course, there’s Haiti and the tragedy that recently occurred there.
Here is an interactive graph showing an increase in earthquakes over the last century. Its data ends in 2006 so I wonder what it would look like if information from 2006-now had been included! When the data is arrayed like it is on this graph it is quite startling to see the increase. (Source USGS) (Left, a girl sobs in anguish in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake)
A person queried me on one of my earthquake blog entries on exactly where does it say in the bible that there will be an increase in earthquakes as a sign of the end times. The scriptures do not specifically say there will be an increase in earthquakes in literal language but it does say so in a metaphor. Here is Jesus’ statement in Mark 13:8 – “For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.” Jesus never used a metaphor for no reason, and He was making a picture here for the disciples.
Birth pangs, or labor pains, are defined as “One of the repetitive pains occurring in childbirth. Often used in the plural. Also: Difficulty or turmoil associated with a development or transition.” Synonyms are: contraction, throes, struggle, sweat, travail. Birth pangs are an event that is unstoppable, increase in intensity and frequency, and result in a new creation. During the duration of the labor, the mother is in throes, sweats, and travails. When it is over there is peace, and rest.
What we have been witnessing is exactly the pangs that Jesus warned us would come and that He told us to watch for. He said so in Mark 13:37, “What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!'”” and if you have obeyed that command you have seen that the birth pangs are increasing.
God is fully in control and He has always sent weather to show His wrath, or to shake up the people, or to render judgment. He sends snow: Job 37:6 “For he saith to the snow, Be thou on the earth…” and indeed there was snow in the United States this week. He sends hail. Psalm 105:32: “He gave them hail for rain…” and indeed there was hail in Egypt this week that caused chaos and killed 4 people. He sends earthquakes. Isaiah 29:6 “Thou shalt be visited of the Lord of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire.” And all the symptoms the Lord said would occur, including signs from heaven and fearful events, are occurring.
Emotionally, it’s so hard to watch, though. On the one hand, to see the LORD’S power is fearful and awesome. To watch His promises unfold is a blessing, hard as these particular promises are to endure. But also with the increase in intensity and frequency of birth pangs comes heartache and tragedy for people. People we know and love are travailing. People we do not know are weeping in grief. Children lose parents, parents lose children. The unsaved are at increased risk of their fate: eternal separation from God! The terrible times Paul said would come are indeed here. For me, it is a most terrible time knowing that as each end time event occurs, many more unsaved are sent to their eternal destiny. The loss of so many unsaved is a heartache beyond comprehension. I know that for the Lord it is even worse, for “God is not willing that any should perish, but all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3). Unfortunately we know that many still choose to go on the broad way, to their destruction.
Far from the secular view that many have of the Christian, that we are so secure in our eternal destiny (we are) that we feel morally superior to those who must endure the consequences of their choice to reject Jesus (we don’t). Quite the opposite. Claiming His promise of eternal security is so simple, and so available, it deepens our sadness and grief for the lost each time a tragedy like this occurs, because it is so unnecessary. Terrible times indeed.
Christian, please continue praying. Stay strong, appealing to the Holy Spirit to stand us upright. Now is not the time to quail, cower, or quit. “Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be <sup class="xref" value="(AF)”>blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world,” The world needs the light of Jesus now more than ever. Be that light, in prayer and in love.